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  Weekly Feature (January 6, 2008)

Using a Writeboard to Teach Writing
by Brad


This term, I discovered a powerful tool to help me teach students to write, as the B.C. Ministry of Education explains, in a way that "will enhance the precision, clarity, and artistry of [student] communications by using processes that professional authors and presenters use." defines "writeboards" as a "sharable, web-based text documents that let you save every edit, roll back to any version, and easily compare changes."

Writers realize that first drafts are only the beginning. Keeping track of changes, while possible in Word documents, is not an easy or user-friendly process. Writeboards allow a teacher to both demonstrate revision processes "live" and to have students show their own processes in a safe environment.

Writeboards are password protected, so only those in my courses have access to my own or another student's work. Using blogs for each of my courses, I provide an access point for students to view writeboards.

One way I've used a writeboard is as a demonstration tool during a homework assignment. For my English 11 class this term, I used a reading by Bill Cosby entitled "The Baffling Question," which takes a light-hearted view of raising children. Students were asked to emulate Cosby's humorous style in an essay of their own (note that many of my adult students are parents).

The homework was assigned over a five-day period. During that time, I developed an essay according to the assignment, writing five drafts. In order to see my writeboard, you need the password, english11 (one word). When you arrive you will see my final draft.

To see earlier drafts, click in the boxes under "Versions" on the upper right corner of the page. Click on any two versions to compare one draft with another. Underneath the essay, you will find comments that explain what I did with each version and why. The student essays were very good.

Other ways I've used writeboards:

For small group revision of another student's piece prior to publication in an online newspaper (Writing 12 class).

For a student to use to revise a piece after teacher and student feedback from a workshop on writing (English 11 and 12).

For ongoing revisions to pieces under development for publication (Writing 12).


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